Mortal Engines’ moving steampunk cities have stalled out early at the box office, reportedly failing to attract enough moviegoers in the film’s opening weekend to shore up early hopes it might break out as the next great sci-fi franchise.
Just about every entertainment outlet is reporting on the apparent bath the Peter Jackson-produced movie took at the box office over the weekend, where the Philip Reeve book adaptation earned a scant $7.5 million against a production budget of more than $100 million, plus marketing and distribution costs, according to Variety.
For fans of the unique, dystopian universe Reeve created in his Mortal Engines Quartet of young adult books, as well as for fans eager for Jackson’s next dose of cinematic spectacle, it’s a significant letdown; one that likely quells hope of future installments. Anyone who’s followed the creative team along on their journey to bring the books’ enormous roving cities to life knows a lot of energy and passion went into the movie’s effects and artistry, making the likelihood of a one-and-done especially disappointing.
Adding insult to injury is Mortal Engines’ less-than-stellar impression on the critics, a shortcoming that doesn’t help its word of mouth in a theatrical run against strong competition like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Clint Eastwood’s new drama, The Mule. The movie currently sits at a Tomatometer score in the high-20s at Rotten Tomatoes, with the critical consensus eying the movie’s cool effects and concept — but not its plot or its performances — as high points.
With a box office window that’s closing fast as Aquaman and other holiday-season blockbusters splash onto theater screens soon, Mortal Engines may run out of gas at the cinemaplex sooner than expected — so if you want to see it on the big screen, it might be a good idea to move fast. Directed by Christian Rivers and starring Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, and Hugo Weaving, Mortal Engines debuted on Dec. 14, and is currently playing in theaters nationwide.